Naming our Struggles (Murray)

 Quite often we as Christians know the various sins against which we struggle.  We might be strong in some areas, but are weak in others.  For example, a person might not have a violent or quick temper, but he does struggle with discontentment and envy.  A Christian might have real and genuine loves for others, but she has a hard time being a good steward of her money.  The list goes on.  Usually as we mature in the faith, we start to see our strengths and weaknesses.  The Lord, through Scripture, helps us see our failures so we can repent of them and ask for grace to “put off” what is sinful and “put on” what is good.  However, sometimes we can’t always name our weaknesses, we don’t know what to call them, or they haven’t been pointed out to us yet.  In Refresh, the authors list some of the main areas of stumbling for women – though I’d add these are areas of stumbling for men as well:

Idolatry.  We make idols of beauty, fashion, career, husband, or children – especially their success in school and sports.

Materialism.  Our pursuit of money or bigger and better homes often results in working more hours or jobs than we can handle and also nourishes the womb of discontent that gnaws away at our minds and hearts.

Debt.  One of the greatest causes of stress is living beyond our means.  Maybe we don’t spend 50 percent more than we can afford, but 10 percent, year on year, grows our debt and our anxiety levels.

Comparison.  Pinterest, Facebook, and mommy blogs can lead us to compare ourselves unfavorably with others who seem better looking, better homemakers, better organizers, and better everything.

Indiscipline.  Although it’s hard to be disciplined and organized, it’s more stressful to be the opposite, which so easily occurs as we use technology.  How many hours are wasted on the internet, resulting not only in guilt over wasted time but a pileup of other duties that now have to be rushed.

Identity.  We define who we are by our successes, our failures, or some part of our past, instead of who we are in Christ.

Media diet.  Just as what we put in our mouths affects our emotions, thoughts, and hearts so what we put in our ears and eyes has emotional, intellectual, and spiritual consequences.  Many live as if Philippians 5:8 said, ‘Whatever things are false, whatever things are sordid, whatever things are wrong, whatever things are filthy, whatever things are ugly, whatever things are terrible, if there is any vice, if there is anything worthy of criticism, meditate on these things.’

Perfectionism.  We strive for flawless family, house, meals, and appearance.

Failure.  We fail at school, or at a job, or at homemaking, or in witnessing, or we fail to meet our own or others’ expectations.

Later in this helpful book the authors talk more about dealing with these dangers and sins in light of God’s grace and his word.  It’s good to know our sins and weaknesses so we can, by God’s grace, fight them.  We don’t want to wallow in weakness, we want to press on obediently in the strength of the Lord!

NOTE: I edited the list for length; you can find it in its entirety on pages 46-48 of Refresh by David and Shona Murray.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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Idols, Significance, and Security

 If you’re looking for a helpful biblical resource on idolatry, I very much recommend Richard Lints’ Identity and Idolatry.  I’ve read a few other good resources on idolatry, but in my view, this one is the best.  In this book, Lints talks about the various angles of idolatry, including image, identity, worship, purpose, significance, and security.  Speaking of significance and security, here’s an excerpt I appreciated:

At the heart of worship is a sense of ‘giving yourself away’ to another.  Key to worship then are the questions ‘To whom are you giving yourself away and in what manner are you giving yourself?’ Genuine worship is giving yourself to the living God in whom and for whom you ave been created.  Idolatry by contrast is substituting the true object of worship (God) for an imitation (idol) and reorienting the relationship from worship to possession.  One who worships the living God does not possess him for one’s own purposes.  But those who create an idol seek to possess it for their own purpose….

An idol is desired as a means to an end, and the end is significance and security on the individual’s own terms.  Since significance and security cannot be fulfilled by the idol, the idol creates a deeper longing for significance and security for that which it cannot provide.  This results in a chasing after the idol, driven by the conviction that eventually the idol will somehow provide the promised significance and security.  The cycle repeats itself.  Longing provides the opportunity to chase, and chasing creates a deeper longing.  Effectively the idol possesses the one who fashioned it.  The yearning for significance and security that initiated the dynamic of idolatry has in fact led to a deeper dissatisfaction and a greater frustration – a dissatisfaction and frustration caused by the inability of the idol to fulfil that which it appeared to promise.

That’s worth reading again – and it helps us as God’s people fight against the idols in our own hearts and lives.

Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry, p. 156-7.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

“Who Am I” by J. Bridges: A Review

Who Am I?: Identity in Christ If you are a follower of Jesus, what answers would you give to this question: “Who am I?”  There are some that might first come to mind, such as “a child of God,” or “a Christian,” or maybe, “A disciple.”  Or, perhaps on those bad days in life we might answer, “I don’t know!” or “I’m not really sure.”  Since we still struggle with sin, sometimes Christians have deep questions about their identity.  Wise counsel and help answering this question is needed!

Jerry Bridges wrote a little booklet to help God’s people answer this very important question: “Who am I?”  In under 100 pages, Bridges gives Christians some biblical insight to consider when they ask questions about their identity.  As with Bridges’ other books, this one is clear, straightforward, easy to understand, gospel centered, and full of biblical truth.

There are eight chapters; each gives a biblical answer to the question, “Who am I?”  I don’t want to give away all Bridges’ answers here because I want our readers to think about answering that question themselves.  For a few examples, however, Bridges talks about justification, adoption, and being a servant of Christ.  I have to admit that the contents weren’t necessarily groundbreaking for me, but I was edified by he way he took Christian truth and applied it to the identity question.  This book did give me a fuller answer to the question at hand.

Who Am I isn’t meant to be a doctoral dissertation on identity, but it is a great introduction to the topic.  I’m also glad to see it is brief, since (I’m guessing) people who are deeply struggling with this question and possibly battling depression (for example) might not have the energy to read through a longer book. Also, this is a good book to give to newer Christians, or Christians who are unable to read longer and deeper theological books.  In fact, I’d give this to a high school student who is wrestling with identity; I’d also give it to an older person who has questions about identity.  Bridges does a fine job of making the subject readable and he constantly focuses the readers on Christ’s work and God’s grace throughout the book.

I do wish there were some application questions at the end of each chapter, since this book might be a good one to read and discuss in a group (or one-on-one) over the course of eight weeks.  However, if you’re leading the group it wouldn’t be tough to write your own sets of discussion questions.  Bottom line: If you’ve been looking for a book like this, or if you’ve not read one like it before, I recommend it!

Jerry Bridges, Who Am I? (n.l. Cruciform Press, 2012).

shane lemsr
hammond, wi